Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Oil Painting of Judas Tree (final)
This piece took several weeks to get the detail and the layers but I finally finished it today. It's been in my mind for so long and don't know where to start...
Some of you might be thinking, "Why Judas?" and I suppose that's the best place to start. Judas. He is the most tragical figure in the Bible (in my opinion). Simply because he was surrounded by such love and truth and yet could not get over his stubborn heart nor his guilt. So many of us are ruled by these sins: pride and guilt. I feel we can all relate to Judas at some point in our lives as we all ultimately betray Christ in our sinful lives. Yet, he chose to remain in his shame and to succumb to the guilt of putting an innocent man to death. A man he never really knew as Lord and Savior. A man who came to wash away the blackest sins.
There is a Judas Tree that exists. It is a beautiful flowering tree native to Israel and some of the other surrounding Mediterranean countries. The leaves are almost a perfect circle and so the tree was called the Judas Tree because they looked so much like the shape of the silver coins that he took in exchange for Jesus. I could not bring myself to paint this tree as it was so slender and beautiful. I felt the tragical figure of Judas was lost on it's perfect beauty.
I picked the Black Locust tree as the Judas Tree. It is one of the most dense woods of all the types of trees. Wood experts believe if not for the thorns and hardiness of the tree (the amount of effort it would take to cut one down) it would have been the preferred wood to the Pine for houses, churches, and townships. It got it's name from the fact that it's grooves and furrows are very black. The "locust" comes from the locust tree family that was given that name because it seemed one could live off of the tree for many months (given the name from John the Baptist who lived off of honey and locusts). You could live off of one if you could manage to chop one down. Apparently the wood burns for a long time. I liked the twisted limbs and dark furrows not for the Edgar Allan Poe look as much as the example of Judas' heart. He was hardened to the truth and would not soften to the real Messiah that moved and ate with him everyday for three years. He became twisted after many months just as the tree twists and turns as the limbs get longer and longer and the roots go deeper.
There is mist around the tree as I felt it showed how Judas lived without truly seeing the light. His eyes were clouded from the truth. The grass around the tree grows freely and shows how there is so much life all around the tree until you get to the roots and see that the tree itself is not budding or bearing leaves but is dead. Just as we are all dead in our sins. Judas was surrounded by so much life and yet remained dead to sin.
Judas hung himself. In Matthew 27:3-5 it says, "When Judas who had betrayed Him saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and elders. "I have sinned," he said, "for I have betrayed innocent blood." "What is that to us?" they replied. "That's your responsibility." So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself." The passage does not clearly state whether he hung himself on a tree but later in Acts 1:18 we see some of the gruesome details of his body (after death). In Deuteronomy 21:22-23 it says, "...because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse." We could compare Judas to Jesus and see that both men died on a tree one enslaved by sin and one to free the world from sin. We could also compare Judas with Peter and see how Peter also betrayed Jesus yet Peter realized who Jesus was: His forgiving Savior. Judas could not see the light. Peter was able to receive forgiveness and Judas never gave himself a chance but was stubborn until the end.
In the painting I have Judas hanging and his hand is letting go of the coins as they spill down the tree. I realize that he threw them into the temple but felt the tree told the story of his betrayal, greed and great shame.
I realize this is not a painting that would be setting in a living room but still felt it was worth painting. We can learn so much from the "black" parts of the Bible just as much as the light. How many around us in church are like Judas? Looking for the God we want not the God who truly exists? How many of us would rather die in our pride and guilt than ask for help from the only One who can truly give us hope? May Judas' life be an example to all of us of the horror of realizing your sin and shame but never truly letting it go.